GREENFIELD — Following months of discussion and disagreement on where to build the next Hancock County Jail, the county commissioners might vote next week to start the design of a facility outside Greenfield.
Indianapolis-based RQAW, the engineering firm paid by the county to study the jail, will soon wrap up a geotechnical report on land commonly called the county farm along U.S. 40 between County Roads 400E and 500E — the proposed location of a new county jail, said commissioner president Brad Armstrong.
If the farmland can support a correctional facility, the Hancock County Commissioners might vote Tuesday to sign a contract with RQAW for the design and engineering of the jail, amounting to $2.5 million, Armstrong said. The county paid RQAW $100,000 for the study, which it started in October.
The county has been attempting to build a new facility for years to alleviate overcrowding. The current 30-year-old jail has recently had upwards of 250 inmates packed into the 157-bed facility.
The contract includes $400,000 for schematic design of a facility with two jail pods, which could hold 400 inmates, as well as almost $2 million more in design and engineering costs leading up to the start of construction, Armstrong said. The total price of the project is still unknown, but officials have previously estimated it could cost between $60 million and $70 million and that construction would take two years.
Part of one of the structures, however, could be operational within a year’s time, costing $10.3 million. The building would house about 158 inmates and have a short-term kitchen, laundry, nurse’s office and intake space. The idea was developed as an alternative to proposed temporary modified semitrailer units.
Ever since a referendum that would’ve raised property taxes to pay for a $55 million downtown jail and other criminal justice projects failed in May, the commissioners and county council have differed on where to build a jail, debating between keeping the jail downtown or moving it to the county farm.
“I still don’t know that it’s the site that I want to be at, but it’s the site where we can get something done,” Armstrong said about the county farm location.
The county council on Wednesday approved a resolution stating the county could use up to $1.5 million from the rainy-day fund for jail design costs and reimburse those expenditures through a revenue bond. The county is pursuing a bond as a stopgap before they can increase income taxes by 0.2 percent to cover part of the jail’s total cost. The tax hike could get approved in January and go into effect on Oct. 1.
Ray Richardson, county attorney, said he advised the council to agree to use up to $1.5 million from rainy-day fund in case they need more funding reserved for the project before a revenue bond goes into effect.
The $2.5 million contract with RQAW will have multiple steps with different price tags the county will need to pay as the design and engineering advances, Richardson said. The county has only appropriated $400,000 from rainy-day thus far to pay for schematic design, he said.
The county previously agreed to an $800,000 contract with RQAW earlier this year when they designed a downtown jail.